Best Beginner Guitar for the Money – 2018 Reviews & Guide
Best Beginner Guitar: 2020 Buying Guide & Reviews
So, you’ve watched countless videos of Slash, or Hendrix – or maybe even Andres Segovia. You can hum all your favourite riffs and you can whistle all the solos. And now, you’ve decided to swap your air guitar for the real thing.
But where to start? You are clear that you want to learn to play the guitar (a great decision!), but now what? You walk into a shop and you’re spoiled for choice. You look around and the variety is infinite – and you don’t understand the differences. By now, your simple desire to be a guitar hero seems a little more complicated than you’d expected.
It is an obvious fact that all those great guitarists must have had a humble beginning, having started with the best beginner guitar that suits them. Some of these artists started with guitars inherited from their parent, friends and/or relatives while others ordered theirs from guitar shops.
What is a good beginner guitar? Fortunately for you – and for your future fans – in this guide you’ll find the answers to any questions a beginner might have about buying their best first guitar.
There are literally thousands of different models and varieties of guitar. However, there is no need to navigate them all. Many will be very specialist models, and others will be designed for a genre or style in which you have no interest. Others still will be out of your budget, downright ugly, or poorly made – and best avoided.
Let’s make sure you get the best guitar for your needs.
There are literally thousands of different models and varieties of guitar. However, there is no need to navigate them all. Many will be very specialist models, and others will be designed for a genre or style in which you have no interest. Others still will be out of your budget, downright ugly, or poorly made – and best avoided.
Chapter 1. A quick tour around the guitar
Before hastily searching for a best guitar for beginner, let’s begin by thinking a little about what makes up a guitar – about the different parts of the instrument and their purpose. We all know what a guitar looks like, but it is worth knowing why they look like this, and it is worth knowing the names of the different bits and bobs that make up the complete image. Pay attention, as some of the vocabulary introduced here will be used through the rest of the guide.
Starting from the bottom, you have the body – the rounded and shapely bulk of the instrument where most of the action happens. On the acoustic guitar (and the classical too) this functions as the echo chamber in which the sound is created and amplified, and they structure and materials out of which it is made are crucial to the tone you’ll create.
The same is true for the electric and bass, but to a lesser extent, as the body of these guitars is solid and these guitars have pick-ups to conduct the sound (see more below).
The bridge is common to all guitars, and it holds the strings in place. This, and other pieces of hardware such as the tuning pegs at the other end, don’t affect the sound too much. However, you should be aware of these because, on cheaper models, they can be really poorly made – which can reduce tuning stability and produce annoying rattling noises if they are loose.
Between the head – where the tuning pegs sit – and the body is the neck, the long stretch of wood over which the strings are suspended. The fingers of your left hand will be here all the time (unless you are playing a left-handed guitar), and so this wants to be comfortable, smooth, and of the width that you prefer.
Finally, the strings shouldn’t be overlooked. Whilst it is unlikely that you will be choosing the type of string that you use when buying your first guitar, note that they are made of different materials and come in different sizes – things that will affect the playability (see below) and tone of your instrument. Thinner strings are easier to play, but a lot of blues and metal musicians go for a fatter string for tonal reasons.
You should also be aware that most guitars use steel strings, with the exception of classical guitars, which use primarily nylon.
Chapter 2: What style of music do I want to play?
To narrow things down in your quest for the best beginner guitar, the first question you need to ask yourself is, what sort of music do I want to play? This question will be the best help you have in directing you to the best model. Find out which guitar your favourite guitarist plays, for example.
Are you one of these "guys"?
or you want to be the Splash 2.0?
If you want to play metal, you’ll need a powerful electric with some decent humbucker pickups and a sleek neck. But if you’re more of a folk-enthusiast, then an acoustic with some resonance and a warm sound is probably best.
Regarding bass guitars, the truth is that you’ll probably know already if it’s one of these you want to play. Whilst the bass is common in all kinds of music, its role in a band is slightly different to the other kinds of guitar. You’ll be teamed up with the drummer, to set the groove and to maintain the rhythm and tempo of the song. It’s unlikely – unless you’re playing jazz – that you are going to be soloing hard, yet you will be absolutely instrumental to the sound and success of your band.
A lot of beginners who want to learn ‘the guitar’ – rather than any specific type of guitar – often go for a classical, it's best guitar to learn on . This is mainly because they are cheap (some can be dirt cheap, and are best avoided), and because they are slightly easier on the fingers.
Your journey starts here. Click on one of the links below to jump to our tips on where to start the guitar buying process for a beginner player.
Don’t worry if you newcomers are thinking what on earth does this all mean? All the technical stuff will be explained below.
Chapter 3: Buying Guide For Your Best Beginner Guitar
Does brand matter?
In the guitar world, there has always been a lot of discussion on this question. Whilst the most iconic models will always be those made by the top guitar brands, these will always come at a hefty price – and the big brands’ cheaper models are not necessarily so much better than those of less well-known brands.
Meanwhile, it is more than possible that, as a beginner, you will fall in love with a guitar from a smaller brand – and in that case you should go for it, no matter what anyone says.
For electric guitars, the biggest brands guitar are probably Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, Gretsch, and PRS. Jackson and ESP are worth a note for those more inclined to the heavier varieties of rock, whilst Gretsch is preferable for those of a bluesier persuasion. The majority of these brands make bass guitars too.
For best beginner electric guitar, it is worth also knowing about Epiphone, who make cheaper versions of Gibson’s iconic range. Whilst the quality is not quite as good, someone who is just starting out on the guitar probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The same goes for Yamaha and Squier, with the latter producing the budget versions of Fender’s classic models.
Some of these electric brands also make acoustic guitars. However, the famous acoustic brands you’ll need to know are Martin, Taylor, Crafter, and Seagull. These each have their strengths and weaknesses – and are all made for different purposes and styles – but they all enjoy a very loyal fanbase.
Classical guitars are a different ball-game altogether, with a different history and with less of a focus on the rock ‘n’ roll image. As such, beginners will probably have never heard of the big names in classical guitar production. Cordoba is probably the top brand on the market these days, with Yamaha, Kenny Hill, and Ramirez as solid contenders for quality.
After considerations of genre and brand, you’ll need to get down to it and try a couple of guitars. Keep these tips in mind when considering each one.
Firstly, just pick a few guitars that you like the look of – maybe with a particular colour or design that you like, or with a particular size or shape. Obviously, the colour changes little in considerations of what makes a great guitar for a beginner. But you want to feel comfortable with your instrument, and having a guitar that you think looks cool, and that you like, can help with this.
Not knowing many – or, indeed, any – songs should not put you off holding and strumming a guitar. Even a complete novice will know which shape and size feels good in their hands.
Again, you are looking for a guitar that feels comfortable. For example, it shouldn’t feel too big. It shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to place the four fingers of the left hand on the first four frets (the vertical lines on the neck of the guitar). And the body of the instrument shouldn’t be so bulky that you can’t reach the strings.
Note, however, that some guitars – such as the Gibson Flying V or the ESP Snakebyte – are designed to be played standing up. The Flying V, which is generally favoured by fans of metal, is almost impossible to play when sat down. You should consider whether your favourite style is really the best choice in terms of comfort and practicality.
For all guitarists investing in a new guitar – from experts to those who are picking their very first instrument – the key word should always be ‘playability’. If your guitar is not playable, then it is unlikely that you, as a beginner, are ever going to go far in your musical journey. You’ll forever remain a beginner.
This is not to say that some guitars can immediately be picked up and played by someone with no musical experience. Rather, playability refers to how easy it is to move around the guitar, and how much actual physical effort it requires to play.
Some important considerations in terms of playability are the ‘action’, or the distance between the strings and the fretboard; the girth of the neck; the thickness of the strings; and, as mentioned above, the size of the guitar’s body. All of these things (apart from the latter, obviously) can ultimately be changed, but you, as a newbie, might not want to start fiddling around with the physics of your guitar.
For a bass guitar, you’ll need to be prepared to work a bit harder than on other types of guitar. The strings on a bass are thicker, and the neck longer. The bass is more of a physical test, and its playability is necessarily reduced.
With all types of guitar, regardless of their type, pay attention when you are playing those first instruments: think about which guitar is easiest to play, and which guitar you will actually want to play once you have taken it home.
This depends on your budget really, as prices for guitars stretch from thousands and thousands of dollars to less than $100. A good range for a decent entry-level guitar would be between $150-$300. Anything less than that, and you risk buying something that isn’t really worth having. Whilst there are some exceptions, the majority for this price will be low quality, will sound rubbish, and probably won’t stay in tune.
Chapter 4: Identifying your first guitar: Our top choices for beginners
Maybe it’s time to go back a step and to think: what is the point of all these different guitars, and which one do I actually want?
This is the moment at which you should consider what you will actually be doing with your guitar. Will you be shredding hot licks over crunchy, distorted riffs? or are you more the sort of dude who wants to strum folk songs around a campfire? These questions matter, as they determine what sort of guitar you will need.
Whilst you’re pondering this question, the following will run you through everything a beginner should know about the four main types of guitar: acoustic, electric, bass, and classical, and list of my recommended guitar for beginners.
Best Beginner Acoustic Guitars
Those who look for playability, and a very unique tone.
People into traditional aesthetics and reliable construction
Anyone looking for a professional sound at a great price.
Those with smaller hands.
Those looking for a great, all-inclusive deal.
The acoustic guitar is the favourite of the folk-singer, the beach or campfire guitarist, the travelling player, or the musician who wants just to pick up and play his instrument without the hassle of amplification or electronics.
As they don’t have the same technical fuss as electrics, acoustic guitars offer an ease and simplicity that is ideal for a beginner. However, due to exactly the same simplicity, it is worth spending a bit longer thinking about the quality, structure, and sound of any acoustic you might buy – as you won’t be able to change these later.
Here, we’ll think specifically about the tonewood and about the specific shapes of the acoustic guitar, as these are the most important things for a beginner to consider. However, remember that, in these fields, there is not really a best tonewood or shape. Rather, there is only a favourite one for you.
What should be noted firstly is the way that the wood is cut and stuck together. Solid-top guitars should be distinguished from laminate models. The former are constructed from a single piece of wood, essentially straight from the tree, whilst the latter are produced from different bits of wood mashed together.
In this case, solid-top guitars resonate a lot more, as in laminate models there is not the same unity of sound. Laminate models, however, are cheaper, and, as a beginner, you might not be able to hear the tonal difference.
Tonewoods: In the construction of acoustic guitars, the type of wood that is used becomes central to the instrument’s sound and tone – as well as to the guitar’s look too. And you’ll notice this, even if you’ve never touched a guitar before in your life. The main types of wood for acoustic guitars are spruce, maple, cedar, and mahogany – although there are many others.
Spruce acts almost as the default tonewood for acoustic guitars, offering versality through different styles of playing, from heavy strumming to more gentle fingerpicking. This fact itself makes spruce guitars a good bet for beginners. Further, the spruce wood provides a nice, neutral sound, which lets the sound of the strings themselves come through.
Some say that maple acoustic guitars are best for being plugged in (for those guitars that we call electro-acoustic). However, the punchy and crisp tones that they provide for the high notes – as well as the richness they provide for the lows – make it a lovely-sounding guitar generally.
Mahogany guitars are the more distinctive-looking acoustic guitars, with a darker, reddish look. In terms of tone, mahogany guitars provide a wider sound, with a greater sustain, but less clarity.
Cedar may create a quieter sound, but it makes a much clearer one too. It is therefore usually used amongst those who go for finger-picking over heavy strumming. As such, this wood is probably not the most recommendable for beginners – but if you like it, then go for it!
Shape, or body type: The shape of your acoustic guitar not only affects its comfort and playability, but also its tone and versatility. So think about this when you are playing.
The dreadnought is the classic acoustic guitar shape – the shape that you think of when you think of an acoustic guitar. And there is a reason for its popularity and fame. This is, namely, that it can do almost anything you want it to stylistically: punk, metal, folk, and pop have all been played on this model, and it doesn’t look like this is going to change.
However, the dreadnought is big. Whilst this provides more volume and richness, it can also be a little annoying for smaller people – as it becomes a bit tricky to get your arms and hands around it.
If the dreadnought is big, the parlour is small – and really quite distinctive. The curves on its body tuck deeper toward the centre, and the neck stretches further. So, despite its size, this is not just a kid’s guitar, but it has a unique character and tone. Traditionally, it has been used to accompany singing, and after a long period of irrelevance, it seems to be coming back into fashion.
The orchestra sits somewhere between the two other models. It is larger than the parlour, but it still has its thinner waist – making it the perfect guitar for a beginner who wants to put it on their knee. Unlike the dreadnought, the auditorium can be good also for those with a softer playing style – so if you think you are more of an aggressive player, maybe this isn’t the model for you.
Finally, the cutaway deserves a mention. This isn’t a body type per se, but rather a feature of all types of acoustic guitar. The cutaway refers to the way that the lower shoulder of the body is removed or inverted, and it allows the player to reach the higher frets on the fingerboard. Whilst it is useful, ninety percent of acoustic guitar players won’t even use it, so it is unlikely that you will as a beginner.
Here're our picks for the best acoustic guitar for beginners to help you get the most value for your money and easier to learn guitar.
Seagull is a Canadian acoustic specialist that has made a huge impact on the guitar market globally. This particular model, the S6, has over the years become a fairly uncontroversial winner amongst amateur players. Let it be said that it more than deserves to be seen as one of the best guitars around – for experienced guitarists as much as for beginners – and this owes much to its uniqueness.
The combination of tonewoods used is one of the most remarkable things about this guitar. The clarity provided by its cedar top is combined with the unusual sound of wild cherry, which makes up the back and sides of this beautiful model. The neck is, less surprisingly, rosewood – which is pretty much a staple for acoustic guitars.
With the S6, Seagull has also made a neck which is wonderfully easy to play. It is slightly shorter than the necks of most acoustic guitars. And, whilst it might be slightly chunkier than usual, the neck’s rosewood allows easy movement.
The slim dreadnought shape makes this an unorthodox and brilliant budget guitar.
For a beginner willing to splash out just that little extra, this will be a guitar for life. Whilst it may sound a little unorthodox, its sublime playability and its pristine construction make the Seagull S6 a winner.
- For playability, the S6 is unbeatable.
- Very unique – and it really works.
- The unusual tone that the tonewood provides might not be as versatile as a beginner would like.
Fender may primarily be known for their electric models, but this world-famous guitar brand can also make a mean acoustic. The CD-60SCE is a case in point, and this excellent model should be considered by anyone looking for their good first guitar.
Nearly everything about this guitar is classic: Fender have opted for the familiar dreadnought shape, an unostentatious black pickguard, and the clean look of a spruce top. You can also get one with a cutaway.
Whilst the previous model in this range, the CD-60, has been one of the most popular guitars on the market, Fender have upgraded it here. With the CD-60SCE, you’ll no longer have a laminate top – as this one is solid spruce – and you’ll get a pick-up thrown in to allow you plug this guitar into an amp.
Otherwise, the CD-60SCE is familiar, with back and sides made of mahogany, and with a mahogany neck. This model comes with a cutaway as standard, and different versions – one with a mahogany top, and a left-handed model – are available.
For its price range, this is a really well-made guitar. Of course it is – it’s Fender.
The CD-60SCE may be a little big, but dreadnoughts just are. Otherwise, its classy, traditional look and its superb sounding solid spruce top maker Fender’s model an affordable professional acoustic that is perfect for the ambitious beginner.
- The classic look gives the CD-60SCE a traditional, recognisable feel, whilst offering great upgraded specifications.
- You won’t fear that it’ll break or give up on you – as it is very competently made.
- One of the easiest acoustic guitar to play.
- The dreadnought shape might be a bit big for kids.
Yamaha should already be a familiar name due to its impressive line of beginner electric guitars. Yet, this trusted brand strikes again with a fantastic, reliable acoustic.
The FG800 is another dreadnought, and again with a spruce top and mahogany back and sides. This time, however, the top is not laminate, something which gives Yamaha’s model a bit of an edge over Fender’s similarly priced beginner guitar. The FG800’s sound is cracking, actually: loud, resonant, and full-bodied.
Playability is where Yamaha’s model might be lacking, though. The action is, unfortunately, uncomfortably high, and, for a beginner, this might result in sore fingers – or, at least, fingers that are sorer than you’d want when playing the guitar. The thinner neck tries to counteract this, and it does so to a degree.
Nonetheless, for the sound alone, this guitar makes for another great option in your search for the best starter acoustic guitar.
It’s a shame about the action on the Yamaha FG800. However, this doesn’t really detract from the incredible advantages this acoustic gives in terms of sound, look, and construction. As ever, when it comes to beginner instruments, if in doubt, go Yamaha.
- The best sound you’ll get in this price range.
- The high action somewhat reduces playability.
*the best acoustic for smaller players*
Epiphone continues its tradition of brilliant budget guitars with this acoustic. The DR-100 sits at the very cheapest end of things, but its specifications make it a guitar that punches well above its weight.
It comes in a classic dreadnought model, with no cutaway or electric components. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem for a beginner – unless you are very ambitious! – and the straightforward design with a nice shapely pickguard should makes it a lovely guitar to behold.
The spruce top and mahogany back and sides add another familiar element to this guitar’s aesthetic, and they provide a fairly standard combination that offers a reliable, well-balanced, and versatile tone. Whilst it’s not the best sounding guitar you will ever hear, for this price no-one is going to argue: it is loud and resonant enough to satisfy every bedroom player.
The particularly nice thing about this DR-100 is the Epiphone SlimTaper neck, which makes for an enhanced playability for those with smaller hands or for those who have aspirations of playing fast and moving quickly.
In truth, this is a great budget guitar about which no beginner will have any complaints.
If you are not too sniffy about simplicity, the Epiphone DR-100 is the acoustic for you. The guitar’s neck makes this the supreme beginner acoustic for playability – and, for its price, you can’t really argue with the tone.
- The SlimTaper neck allows for a lovely playability.
- The DR-100’s sound is fantastic for this price.
Cons:It’s not got the clearest sound at the low end, but few beginners will notice this at all.
This model comes from a relatively unknown brand, Donner. However, they have earned themselves a reputation for quality instruments for beginners.
The DAG-1C comes with a full set of accessories that will perfectly match the needs and expectations of any beginner, including a case, a strap, and a capo. It also includes a digital tuner that will make it easier to tune the instrument for those who are not used to do it manually.
The guitar features a 41-inch cutaway – a rarity for package models that allows the player to reach the higher frets. It also comes with a spruce top and mahogany back and sides – a standard combination for beginner acoustics that offers both versatility and a well-rounded sound.
It goes without saying that the DAG-1C’s tonewood is entirely laminate, which limits the instrument’s resonance a little. However, in a package like this, such a limitation will hardly be noticed.
To be quite frank, no-one but a beginner would buy a Donner Dag-1C. However, this is because it is the perfect acoustic for beginners, with an unarguably impressive array of completely necessary bonuses. This is the pick for no-fuss bedroom players – and it will not disappoint.
- The DAG-1C comes a bundle of accessories that are essential for any beginner.
- The sound quality of this Donner model is not going to impress professionals.
Best Beginner Electric Guitars
Those into classic looks and modern specifications
Metalheads and rock and roll stars
Beginners looking for an all-inclusive package.
Electric guitars come in all shapes and sizes, and, at the more expensive end of things, each shape and size is designed with a specific purpose and player in mind. Much more than with acoustics, there is a lot to know about all the different aspects of each particular model. Whilst a beginner might not be so interested in the specific differences between micro-technicalities, it is important to know exactly what you are looking at when you are looking at an electric guitar.
Body: The most distinctive thing about electric guitars is the body, meaning the main chunk of the guitar.
When comparing the body of an electric to that of its acoustic cousin, you’ll notice immediately that it’s neither round nor hollow. This may seem sort of obvious, but it is really important for a beginner to realise the reasons for this difference.
Firstly, the electric guitar generally needs to be solid in order to house all the electronics and fiddly bits that make the electric guitar electric. These need to be tightly held in place by the guitar’s firm body.
(Note that there also ‘hollow-body’ electric guitars too, which, as you might guess, have a hollow body. These, however, are less common, and are less likely to be desired by a beginner.)
Secondly, when compared to the acoustic, the electric guitar doesn’t need to resonate so much. Acoustics are designed to be played unplugged, and they therefore need to produce their resonance – the volume of their sound – by their own very architecture.
Electric guitars don’t need to do this – at least not entirely – as their resonance is developed by the fact that you plug them in. They have pick-ups for this purpose (see below), and their sound is strengthened by an amplifier, as well as by all the other electronic gear about which the novice will eventually learn.
On the other hand, expert guitarists would probably point out that the body of the electric guitar is actually very important. They would tell you that the wood out of which it is made considerably affects the tone of the sounds the guitar makes.
They would be absolutely right, but, as a beginner, you might not be able to recognise the subtlety of the differences. For the moment, just know that alder, ash, mahogany, and maple are the four main tonewoods from which electric guitars are made. Maple is probably the metal-head’s favourite, whilst alder should be remembered by beginners, as it is a very versatile and cheap option.
Pick-ups: I mentioned pick-ups earlier, and they are one of the most important parts of the electric guitar’s sound. You’ll notice them in the centre of the guitar’s body, underneath the strings. They tend to look like a flat, rounded bit of plastic with usually six little circles in the middle.
The pick-up is the part that allows the guitar’s sound to be amplified. They are a combination of magnets and coiled wire which pick up the vibration of the strings and turn those vibrations into an electronic signal. You could think of these most simply as the microphones of your guitar.
As you will by now expect, there are many varieties of pick-up. However, the beginner should know about the main two: the single-coil and the humbucker. Neither is strictly better; they just produce different sorts of sound.
The single-coils are the iconic pick-ups of the Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster models. As the name suggests, they consist of a single coil of wire that sits around six little magnets. They are recognisable by the very clear and crisp sound that they produce.
The humbucker, on the other hand, was produced to combat the main annoyance associated with the single-coil: the hum. The single-coil characteristically gives a little background noise, which the humbucker tries to diminish through the addition of a second coil (the humbucker bucks the hum).
But this pick-up has features of its own too. The humbucker is known for its warmer, fuller tone, and as such is used more frequently in heavier genres of music.
Bridge: Unlike the acoustic guitar, the electric guitar’s bridge is a complicated bit of kit. Put simply, the bridge is that part which holds the strings in place on the body (as opposed to the head). When you’re more comfortable with the guitar, you will be able to adjust this to achieve your favoured action, intonation, and feel.
Again, there are two main types of bridge: the fixed and the floating.
The fixed bridge, whilst technically very complicated, follows a straightforward central principle: as the strings need to be attached to the guitar somewhere, the fixed bridge does this surely and simply. Some varieties of fixed bridge cannot be adjusted – such as the Wraparound, which can be found on many beginner electric guitars – whilst others, including the 2Tek and the Tune-O-Matic, can be played with to suit your own style and technique.
The floating bridge is a bit more fun. The benefit of the floating bridge, or tremolo, is that you can change the tension of the strings – and therefore the pitch and intonation of the note – at will whilst you’re playing. As a beginner, you might question the importance of this. However, listen to a player like Scott Henderson or Yngwie Malmsteen and you’ll hear what a floating bridge can do.
Bear in mind, though, that you don’t really need a tremolo. And definitely be careful buying a cheap guitar with a floating bridge: quite simply, they can be crap – and they often snap.
Neck and fingerboard: Finally, a brief note on the neck and fingerboard.
The main thing here is that, on an electric guitar, the neck should allow you to move freely and easily – particularly when you are a beginner. Don’t pick a guitar with a fat neck around which you can’t reach your fingers.
The main types of neck are the C, the U, and the V, which describe the shape, or profile, of the neck. The C is rounder, whilst the U has a flatter back. The V tends to be shaped with a gentle point. All can be great, and the different profiles don’t affect the sound at all. All that matters is which one you prefer.
You might also want to consider, as you did with the body, the different types of wood out of which the neck is made.
Squier Bullet Strat
*the best beginner guitar for lovers of the blues*
Whilst Squier is now known for offering budget replicas of Fender’s pricier models, this does them a bit of an injustice. The company is owned by Fender and is really just the name given to Fender’s more basic models. However, whilst they are more basic, this is not to say that they are bad guitars at all. Rather, they make the perfect electric guitars for beginners – particularly this one, the Bullet Strat.
Really, the Bullet Strat is indistinguishable from its more expensive cousin – at least in looks. The finish ranges from pink to ‘sunburst’ – through the classic white, black, and red – and the familiar white pickguard is on all these variations.
The Bullet Strat’s solid body is basswood, and it has a floating bridge with a tremolo bar. The guitar comes with a couple of different pick-up variations, so you can choose between either a full set of three single-coils, or you can throw a humbucker in there for good luck. Regardless of what you choose in this regard, the guitar sounds good, particularly for playing the blues and jazz. To be quite honest, for the price, it doesn’t just sound good; it sounds incredible.
Whether you are playing blues, jazz, or heavy metal, you won’t go wrong with this serious offer from Squier. For those who are committed to the blues, however, the Bullet Strat is definitely the right choice: get it with the three single coils.
- In terms of what you get for your money, you can’t do much better than this.
- The guitar feels solid and well put together.
- The tremolo arm might be a little too sensitive, and it can sometimes put you out of tune.
Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V
Although Yamaha is not a brand that people usually associate with the guitar, the company’s Pacifica PAC112V is probably the go-to entry-level guitar, and it is surely the best-selling beginner model on the market. This is because it is incredibly cheap for what it offers – and what it offers, really, is exceptionally high quality.
The Pacifica is based, stylistically, on the Fender Stratocaster, probably the most iconic electric guitar there is. Yet, Yamaha’s model adds a couple of twists to the classic: the horns of the Pacifica are notably longer, for example, and the curves are less severe than on the Strat.
Other than that, the main difference is that, rather than the three single-coil pick-ups, the Pacifica offers two single-coils and a humbucker at the bridge. This adds a greater versatility of tone, offering both the breadth of sound of a humbucker and the clarity of a single-coil.
It also boasts, like the classic Stratocaster, a tremolo bridge and a smart, solid alder body.
With the PAC112V there is no harm going with the crowds. The Pacifica is a crowd-pleaser precisely because of its versatility – and so whilst it might have a very recognisable look, this electric gives you the opportunity to craft a sound that is entirely your own. The only drawback is its weight, which is not much of a drawback at all – particularly for this price.
- Cheaper than its inspiration, the Stratocaster, but with much of the same aesthetic and technical quality.
- Versatile sound, and a winner for beginners.
- Slightly heavier than other models, which makes it slightly less appropriate for kids.
Fender Modern Player Tele Plus
Fender are one of the undisputed masters of electric guitar-making, with the Stratocaster and the Telecaster sitting among the most famous models in history. With the Modern Player Tele Plus, Fender have taken the design of the Telecaster and have adapted it to make one of the most brilliant and stylish beginner guitars on the market.
Bucking the trend of most Fender models, this Tele is fitted with a triple pick-up system that includes a bridge humbucker. This prudent variation offers a greater versatility, swapping the jangly sound of the Fender classic for a broader sonic range suitable for all sorts of music.
What makes the Tele Plus more affordable than most Fender guitars is its pine body which, whilst a little like spruce tonally, is not so durable as the more familiar guitar tonewoods. However, as is the case for the entirety of the Fender range, the manufacture is impeccable.
Otherwise, the fixed bridge and standard maple neck and fingerboard make this a joy to play, maintain, and behold.
It may be the most expensive guitar on the list. But with Fender, you’re not only paying for the name, but for a reliability and aesthetic that is untouched among electric guitar manufacturers. The Modern Player Tele Plus is a beauty of a guitar, and, in leaving many of the Fender orthodoxies behind, it is also a brilliant option for beginners.
- A fantastic option for beginners who want reliable quality and classic design at an affordable price.
- The neck pick-up hums noticeably, but that is really a feature of all cheaper electric guitars.
Epiphone Les Paul Special II
*the best beginner guitar for metalheads*
Epiphone is to Gibson what Squier is to Fender. Meanwhile, the Les Paul is Gibson’s Stratocaster. Probably one of the most famous guitars on the planet, the Les Paul has been played by the likes of Slash, Jimmy Page, and Bob Marley. Epiphone, luckily, has made it available to the world with a price that won’t break the bank. And it’s an excellent guitar for those starting to play rock music.
In terms of design, the Les Paul Special II doesn’t need much of introduction. It looks like a Les Paul, but the finishes it offers are limited – to distinguish it from its more expensive variants.
This model retains the classic Tune-O-Matic bridge for which Gibson is known, something that makes it really easy to tune and restring. Note, therefore, that there is no floating bridge.
With a distinctive body made from a mix of mahogany and maple, as well as two Epiphone brand humbucker pick-ups, this guitar is the perfect entry into the world of rock and roll. It is designed to be turned up loud, and it handles the distorted sound of metal well.
Rock music would be nothing without the Les Paul, and now Epiphone have given beginners the perfect tool to become rock stars themselves. Besides its striking design, Epiphone’s Les Paul is a brilliantly and considerately made guitar, that favours ease of use over fiddly extras. For a metalhead, it is without doubt the best beginner option.
- It looks like a Les Paul, and almost sounds like the real deal too.
- A really fantastic and fairly-priced beginner guitar for those who want to play rock music.
- No tremolo bridge.
- The limited number of designs make it less appealing from an aesthetic perspective.
Jackson JS22 Dinky
*the best beginner electric for smaller players*
Jackson guitars are known for metal – being played and endorsed by some of the greats of heavy music, including players from Megadeth, Machine Head, and Def Leppard. However, this little guitar – the JS22 Dinky Minion – is great for all, and not, as the name suggests, just those of the ‘dinkier’ persuasion.
This model offers all the perks of a Jackson guitar – a thin neck, heavy humbucker pick-ups, and a dazzling finish – but it comes with a shape that is entirely thinned out, making it lighter and more comfortable to play. It is still full-size, but the neck is littler than average, and its back is shaved away at the higher frets to make for quicker playing, and therefore easier soloing.
Whilst it has a whammy bar, you might not want to go too wild on it, as it isn’t the strongest thing in the world. Its humbuckers too might make the tone a little less versatile than you might like but, otherwise, the JS22 Dinky provides a sound which is surprisingly full, when played both distorted and clean.
The Jackson JS22 is really a metalhead’s guitar, and for this audience, it is fantastic. For others, it might be less so, but it should remain a real consideration for anyone that is after a really lightweight and playable electric.
- Its thinner shape sacrifices none of the quality expected from Jackson.
- The humbuckers can sound a little muddy on the lower notes.
Yamaha Gigmaker EG
As well as their range of standalone budget guitars – including the Pacifica PAC112V – Yamaha produce guitar packages that provide everything a beginner might need to start their electric guitar journey straight out of the shop. The Gigmaker EG package comes with a PAC012 model, an amp, a tuner, a pack of spare strings, a strap, a case, and a tuition DVD.
The guitar itself – the PAC012 – is the more basic version of the bestselling Yamaha PAC112V: with its double cutaway and Strat-shape, it looks exactly the same, but the specifications are not quite as hot. Rather than alder, the PAC012 goes for an agathist body, and the pick-ups – configured in the same way, with two single-coils and a humbucker at the bridge – are not quite as powerful as their pricier cousins.
Everything else in the package is superb. At 15 watts, the amplifier is powerful enough to play small gigs – and more than enough to get you through band and solo practice – and it comes with greater tonal options than most budget amplifiers. The tuition CD is also a gift for those who are just starting out.
The Yamaha Gigmaker EG package quite simply provides everything that you might want with your first guitar – including an amp and a guitar that both offer way more than a beginner would need. If you want to keep things simple, go for the Yamaha PAC112V reviewed here, but this is the choice for those beginners who want it all immediately.
- This package gives the beginner everything they could possibly want when starting out – but without sacrificing too much quality.
- The PAC012 is not a guitar that’s going to go with you throughout your whole musical career, so be prepared to fork out further when you want a greater tonal range.
Best Beginner Bass Guitars
Players who want a versatile instrument.
Smaller players, and those who want a really playable neck
Those into great looks and classic sound
Players who want greater control over their tone.
Beginners on a budget
As the bass is designed for a different role in the band – and therefore for a different style of playing – you’ll need to consider some distinct things when looking for your first instrument.
Bass guitars are generally bigger and their strings thicker, whilst the lower pitch they need to produce requires some specific characteristics. Be aware particularly, then, that the effects of the tonewood can be different, and the pick-ups will be slightly adapted to deal with the bass-heavy tone.
Whilst ash and alder are common tonewoods, like in the electric guitar, beginners will probably see a lot of models made with agathis, a cheaper wood that replicates their balanced range and the clarity of their output. On the other hand, mahogany is a lot more popular in basses than ‘normal’ electrics, as the warmth and resonance produced by this wood nicely complements the lower range of the instrument, whilst preventing the higher notes from being too twangy and percussive.
Regarding pick-ups, the bass-playing community is divided by a different choice. Whilst you should keep in mind the humbucker and single-coil, you will also be considering passive vs active. It’s true that almost every beginner bass will be fitted with passive pick-ups as standard, as these are the long-standing classics of the bass sound: they give the full-bodied and round sound that you expect of a bass guitar.
You’ll know if your bass has an active pick-up, however, as these require a battery. As such, they produce the tone as much as they receive it from the strings, and they give you more of an opportunity to play with the sound that your bass will ultimately make.
Finally, then, as a beginner, you’re going to have the option to play an acoustic bass and even a fretless bass. The acoustic, put simply, won’t need to be plugged in, and so will only be played by bands or musicians that play exclusively acoustic sets (this, most likely, won’t be you). The fretless is a wonderful machine that allows you to play pitches that sit between the most common notes, something a bit like a violin. For these, you’re going to need an excellent ear – something that a beginner probably won’t have (no offence!). A newbie would be wiser to leave these aside and stick to a fretted, electric bass.
Oh, and, before you ask, get yourself a four-string model. Unless you’re a superhero and expect to become virtuosic in a couple of months, it’s unlikely that you’ll need the extra strings.
The heroes of the budget instrument give beginner bassists this versatile and unpretentious model – the not so memorably-named TRBX174. If you’re in possession of a musical appetite that includes everything from the chugging rhythms of metal to the sweet melodies of jazz, you’ll probably not find a model that’ll suit you better.
It’s the pick-ups really that give this nicely-priced model its crazy flexibility. It’s got both a classic bright single-coil as well as a wholesome split-coil humbucker – both of which are passive – which enable you to get the best of both tonal worlds. Further, by switching between the pick-ups, you can make the TRBX174 even more suited to its sonic environment.
Otherwise, the alder body and standard maple neck give this bass a nice neutrality that will be welcome in every style of music you could imagine. This is a great beginner model from a reliable brand.
The Yamaha TRBX174 is great for everyone – and particularly for those with eclectic tastes and high demands from their instruments. All newbie bassists should consider this model, as there’ll be nothing that you can do that it can’t.
- The pick-ups and tonewood make this model extremely versatile.
- It’s a shame that the guitar’s design isn’t quite as interesting as the sound it creates. However, Yamaha is not exactly known for flashy aesthetics.
*the best beginner bass for smaller players*
The favourite brand of the electric metalhead brings their playability and sleek design to bear on the bass. And the good thing is that it ain’t just a metal guitar either: you’ll have no problems playing anything you want on this sweet beginner axe.
As you already know, Ibanez are renowned for the necks of their electric guitars. And in their bass range too, they leave aside the plumpness of the trad neck in favour of a smooth and thin machine made for greater movement and ease of playing.
What’s nice about the GSR200 is that you can also get one with a shortened neck (this would be the GSR20). As you can imagine, this allows the newbie and the smaller player to move around even faster, with less stretching, straining, and struggling.
It’s got a combination of humbucker and single-coil pick-ups too, and the agathis body keeps the versatility of tone.
For playability, Ibanez’s model is a gem, with a quick, shortened neck that is a real rarity amongst beginner basses. Don’t be put off by Ibanez’s metal reputation, as the GSR200 will be perfect for you whatever your style.
- The neck is untouchable in the beginner bass market.
- Versatile despite its metal origins.
- The cheaper agathis wood isn’t quite as nice as the more expensive alternatives.
Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar
One of the best-looking budget basses is this bad-boy from Squier, the Fender-owned brand that produces economical versions of the Fender classics. Yet, the Vintage Modified Jaguar plays well and sounds great too – making it a wicked model for beginner bassists who want to turn heads.
This one is made of agathis, and it has a straightforward maple neck to keep things simple. Unlike some of the others in this list, the Jaguar boasts two single-coil pick-ups which, whilst limiting the tonal versatility of this model, gives it an attractive punchy sound that some might like.
If you’re concerned that you won’t be able to manage the bass’s larger neck-length and body-size – or if you’re already a pro guitarist who might get frustrated by the slower movements of the bass – the Jaguar Special Short Scale might be a handy option. It just takes a nice couple of inches off the neck.
As they are known to do, Squier have given the world yet another superhero instrument with a price that verges on the astonishing. Great for smaller people, and better for those into show-stopping aesthetics, the only downside is the slight limits on tonal versatility.
- The Jaguar style brings the Fender look to those who don’t want to spend that much.
- The pick-up configuration might disappoint the beginner looking for versatility.
Sterling by Music Man S.U.B. Series Ray4 StingRay Bass
Music Man are a highly respected brand of guitar, and Sterling is their range for beginners and those looking for a cheaper instrument. Like Epiphone and Squier, Sterling have come, however, to have a life of their own, with a loyal base of fans and with a huge following of professional musicians.
The Ray4 StingRay is, quite simply, a brilliant bass for beginners, offering a whole load of features that the vast majority of budget models avoid. Only on the tonewood – which is basswood – have Sterling gone for a cheaper option, however this in itself is not at all so problematic that it should put you off. Particularly when the instrument’s other features are such high quality.
Sterling have gone for a single humbucker on the Ray4 StingRay – an unorthodox choice – that provides a hard and punchy tone perfect for both rhythmic work and more precise playing too. This model also has an onboard EQ system – which makes the pick-up into an active system – which gives you further tonal possibilities.
You have to be slightly ambitious to play the Sterling StingRay. But, as you should be ambitious as a beginner, buy this bass and find a tone you love with its impressive active pick-ups.
- The Ray4’s active system allows for a wide range of tonal options. Even without this, however, the bass sounds awesome.
- Basswood is not as high quality as other tonewoods for basses.
Davison Full Size Electric Bass Guitar Starter Beginner Pack
Davison are a company that offers the most basic of guitars, generally providing budget replicas of more familiar models. This Beginner Pack gives you a simple and straightforward instrument, alongside an amplifier, a strap, and a case. Whilst this little package won’t blow your mind, it provides a decent option for the impatient beginner who wants everything they need all in one go.
The bass itself has less of the fuss of other beginner models – with one single-coil pick-up and a fixed bridge. Its standard double-cutaway is comfortable and provides a nice playability, but its weight and full size might make it a little unwieldy for kids.
Otherwise, the alder body and maple neck are fairly familiar bass fare, and they provide a really decent tone for a such a price.
That the strap and case are included is great (really all guitars should come with these as standard), and the amp is a real gift. Whilst not super powerful – and whilst tending to fuzz a little too enthusiastically – the amp is good for quiet practice and it nicely complements the bass itself. It's actually one of the best starter guitar on a budget.
Enthusiastic beginners on a tighter budget will relish this deal from Davison. It might not offer as much as other instruments in terms of quality and sound, but the price of this package is killer, all things considered.
- A good option for beginners on a budget.
- It comes with everything a beginner might need.
- The package isn’t of incredibly high quality, with a few buzzing frets on the bass, and a weak amp.
Best Beginner Classical Guitars
Flamenco, and a classic tone and look
Those looking for reliable quality.
Players looking for a variety of sizes to try.
For smaller players.
Professional quality at a lower price
Classical guitars are a world of their own, but they are often lumped under acoustic guitars more generally. Most of the very budget acoustic guitar models will strictly be ‘classical’, but this is really a bit condescending.
Note for now that classical guitars use nylon strings, rather than the acoustics’ steel ones. The nylon strings are slightly easier to play, and they produce a sweeter and warmer tone than steel. However, nylon strings also require much less tension, so the bodies and neck of classical guitars are usually not as strong as their acoustic cousins. As such, it is really unwise to string a classical guitar with steel strings.
In terms of playability, you will probably see that nylon strings are a little easier, as they don’t require as much effort from your fingers as the steel strings. Classical guitars have a wider neck and fingerboard too, which can be a blessing or a curse for beginners.
You’ll also find that it is more common for cedar to be used as a tonewood for the classical guitar, rather than spruce, as that greater clarity is preferable for the style of music played on the classicals.
Why should you start with Classical Guitar?
A lot of beginners who want to learn ‘the guitar’ – rather than any specific type of guitar – often go for a classical. This is mainly because they are cheap (some can be dirt cheap, and are best avoided), and because they are slightly easier on the fingers. Here are some of the best entry-level models. Alongside the specialist manufacturers, you’ll notice some familiar brands too.
*the best pick for flamenco guitar*
Whilst Cordoba are new to the guitar market – having only been around for twenty years or so – they have become one of the best manufacturers in town. The C5 sets the standard nowadays for cheaper classical guitars, and you may be forgiven for thinking that this really should be more expensive than it actually is.
For a new brand, Cordoba has produced a guitar that just breathes tradition. From its solid cedar top to its mahogany neck, back, and sides, the C5 is the epitome of everything a classical guitar should be. The rosewood fingerboard is a classic and predictable touch, and the model’s sustain is unmatched by any guitar at this price.
For an extra bit of cash, a beginner can go for the C5-CE, which replicates all the specs of the simple C5 but adds a cutaway and some electronics – including a tuner and a pick-up, for when you want to plug in.
No-one would dispute the outstanding quality of the Cordoba C5, or of the Cordoba brand per se. if you don’t want to fork out this much for your first guitar, why not get yourself a C5 in a couple of years, when it will still do everything you want it to?
- The C5 boasts an elegant, traditional look.
- Incredible tone for its price.
- It might be slightly on the expensive side for a beginner model.
As we know by now, Yamaha is everywhere. And the C40II continues the company’s tradition of making great, reliable instruments for those starting out. Again, this is one of the best-selling beginner classicals out there. So, whilst it is most definitely a guitar for newbies, it is more accurately an excellent guitar for newbies.
The C40II is topped with spruce, and, as is important to recognise, it is laminate rather than solid wood. This gives the guitar a little less oomph, but as you’ll most likely be playing in your bedroom rather than the Carnegie Hall, this shouldn’t be too problematic. It’s got a nice, orthodox rosewood fretboard, and the neck itself is nato – which gives a sound a little like mahogany. The back and sides are a less-known meranti, which is itself a strain of mahogany, but one that offers a slightly less rich and robust sound.
Anyway, quite simply, all of this makes the C40II sound a lot more professional than most laminate-topped classicals. With its standard shape and its unquestionably professional construction, a beginner really cannot go wrong with Yamaha’s budget classical.
You can’t go wrong with Yamaha’s construction, and so, whilst your style might outgrow the C40II, this classical will live on as a reliable back up guitar. A lot of people would agree that it’s almost the perfect beginner classical.
- Yamaha are a reliable brand that makes really reliable instruments.
- The laminate top might limit the C40II to your early days of playing the guitar.
La Patrie Etude
Whilst a much less famous brand than some of the others on this list, amongst those in the know La Patrie are beginning to make a name for themselves. The Etude is their standard option for beginners and for those who want a budget-friendly model.
Like Cordoba’s C5, the Etude boasts a solid cedar top, yet the La Patrie instrument, with its cherry back and sides, comes in at a slightly lower price. Most of this is due to its unfamiliar name, but you won’t notice much of a difference in playability and sound.
Other than that, this has standard dimensions of body and neck. It doesn’t come with any variations in size – or with any additional features, such as a cutaway – but you don’t really need it for this price. A great option for those beginners less interested in paying for brand.
La Patrie really should be more widely known than they are. But, in some ways, it’s good that they aren’t. The Etude is an excellent instrument that benefits from a very reasonable price for what it offers.
- Well made, with great specifications for a beginner model.
- For those who feel more comfortable buying from a more familiar brand, this probably isn’t the guitar for you.
*the best classical for smaller players*
For anyone that recognises Ibanez as the guitar company specialising in electrics for shredders and metalheads, it might be a little surprising that they also make classical guitars. If you’re surprised by this, you’ll also be surprised to hear that the Ibanez AEG10NII is really fantastic.
In terms of its look, the AEG10NII is about as far away as you can get from the classical guitar whilst still being classical. It comes with a black finish, a deep cutaway, and a slighter depth. It also features a spruce top, which you will know is more common on steel-string acoustics than on their nylon-string cousins.
The Ibanez model also boasts a pick-up and some serious electronics, which give this classical a range of opportunities that almost no other beginner model can offer. Alongside the possibility to plug this guitar in, there’s an onboard tuner.
Otherwise, the AEG10NII sounds wonderful, and its smaller body makes it a charm to play for anyone.
As you might expect from a brand known primarily in the metal world, the AEG10NII sticks two fingers up to traditional classical design. But with its stellar electronics and slightly reduced size, this is a killer guitar whichever way you look at it.
- The smaller size and deep cutaway makes this an incredibly playable guitar.
- Its electronic features give the AEG10NII an edge over many of the other budget classicals.
- In making a classical guitar for a wider audience, Ibanez have sacrificed the classical look for a more rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic.
Another of Yamaha’s budget guitars is the CGS104A – and it is another brilliant option from the kings of the beginner instrument. At the same price as the C40II, and virtually indistinguishable in specifications from this other model, the CGS104A nonetheless provides a great choice to consider in your search for a best beginner guitar.
Like the C40II, the CGS104A comes with meranti back and sides – a cheaper, but nonetheless able and versatile tonewood – and a laminate spruce top. It also has a nato neck.
The CGS104A is part of a Yamaha series that is designed specifically for sales to schools, and so the manufacturing is slightly more robust, intended as it is for greater wear and tear. This design also contributes to the fact that the CGS comes in a variety of different sizes, which makes it ideal for kids.
Like the vast majority of beginner classical guitarists who have spent more than a moment on the internet, you’ll be tempted to try the Yamaha CGS104A. And so you should. You should probably try the whole range, to see which of the many they offer fits you best.
- A contender for the most sought-after classical instrument for beginners, from one of the most renowned and reliable guitar brands on the planet.
- The range of sizes is a winner for kids.
- Like most Yamaha models, the CGS104A has an inoffensive and uninspired look.
So, that’s it – you should now be ready to get out there and find the best guitar for your newbie needs! Remember to keep these things in mind:
- Playability: The number one concern for a beginner is the ease of movement that the guitar permits. Whether a bass or a classical, you are not going to play the instrument if it’s a pain to get your hands around.
- Comfort: Whilst playability is part of this, a beginner is not going to feel comfortable if they don’t look good – or if a guitar is way too big for them, it's not a best beginner guitar. Make sure that the style and size you choose makes you feel as comfortable and confident as possible.
- Versatility: Most professional guitars are produced for a particular genre or style. However, a beginner might prefer a model that can do everything that you want it to. Versatility here becomes the key word, and everything from the tonewood to the pick-ups can affect this.
Otherwise, best of luck, whatever you end up doing with your guitar!